Poland - Social development

A social insurance institute administers social security programs through a network of branch offices, under the provision of new legislation passed in 1998 and implemented in 1999. Social security, including social insurance and medical care, covers virtually the entire population. Old age, disability, and survivors' pensions are provided, as well as family allowances, sickness benefits, maternity benefits, workers' compensation, and unemployment. The retirement age for teachers, aviation and maritime workers, and workers in hazardous occupations is 60 for men and 55 for women; for most other workers it is 65 for men and 60 for women, if the former have been employed for 25 years and the latter for 20. Employers and employees contribute9.76% of earnings or payroll toward the pension system; sickness and maternity benefits are funded by employee contributions and government subsidies.

Special family allowances have been a part of the social security program since 1947 and are paid to families with children, subject to a means test. Maternity benefits include full wages for a total of 16–18 weeks followed by a leave of 24–72 months paid at a reduced rate.

The constitution establishes that all citizens are equal, regardless of gender. However, discrimination exists particularly in the Labor Code. Women participate actively in the labor force, but are concentrated in low-paying professions, earning, on average, 30% less than men. Until 1996 the law prohibited women from working in 90 occupations in the industry, forestry, health care, agriculture and transportation sectors, and they are still banned from working underground or in jobs that require heavy lifting. Early retirement for women and the provision of child sickness benefits to women, make it more costly for employers to hire women. As a result, women are more likely to be unemployed. Violence against women and domestic abuse remain a widespread problem. The law does not provide restraining orders, and even convicted abusers generally go unpunished. Sexual harassment in the workplace is slowly being addressed.

The Romani minority living in Poland faces discrimination by local authorities. Anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism, and violence persist. The judicial system is hampered by inefficiency and budget constraints, and there are marginal restrictions on freedoms of speech and press.

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